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Common values and group identification are critical and important aspects of military service. But research and experience suggest they do not necessarily override the problems of bias and discrimination. The Department of the Air Force (DAF) is committed to improving diversity and inclusion for members throughout its ranks so that the organization reflects the diversity of the general population. The DAF uses blinding concepts and practices to unify members around core values, improve representation at various levels in the ranks, and reduce bias and discrimination in the workforce. These blinding strategies seek to downplay or ignore gender, racial, and ethnic differences and to unify people under common goals and values.

However, research and experience suggest that blinding alone may not be the most effective way to achieve these goals and can be counterproductive in some contexts. For example, blinding in selection ignores the biases and barriers that can prevent people from standing out in the ways that count. In this Perspective, the authors discuss the scholarly literature on the efficacy of the blinding strategies. They also examine how these insights apply in the context of DAF goals, other approaches that should be explored, and steps the DAF should take to better advance its goal of a more equitable and inclusive workforce.

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This work was prepared for the Department of the Air Force (DAF) and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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